Yesterday was 3 years since we lost my mum. But 9 years if you count her early on-set dementia. I was feeling like I should post something about mum on social media. I had actually been thinking about it for a few days before. I felt a pressure to convey how wonderful she was in a tiny scrap of writing written to people who knew her and many who didn’t. How could I sum her up, sum up her compassion, her love for me and so many others, her joy, her energy, humour, intelliegence and life force in a real way. Anything I did would seem futile or half baked.
It’s a similar feeling to that which I felt at her funeral. A lot of her kindness was on show — stories of her work as a nurse or helping with homeless charities. But I felt her sense of fun and silliness wasn’t there. Her joy of nature. Her sense of adventure. I had felt sad that those present may not get a sense of all those sides of her. There were people who had known her years before. They all came to send her off. Some told me their stories, many people I knew, some I did not. But a funeral can’t sum up all of who someone was, in the same way a social media post can’t either. But it felt to me like she was being spoken of as some perfect untouchable saint rather than a real person. But she wasn’t perfect — no — she was far more interesting than that. Not some pastel do-gooder, like perhaps it came across.
She was funny but not through one-liners.
She was compassionate but not for show.
She was intelligent but not academic.
She was political but not party political.
She was full of warmth. She was full of fun. She was welcoming. She would point out little beautiful things in your surroundings that you would normally just walk past.
I felt sad about her funeral for a while but then I realised that it didn’t matter. We all knew her and remembered her in our own ways. I didn’t and don’t need to sell her to anyone. Or explain exactly what she meant to me - I know.
Alot of people after a funeral have done their bit grieving — that’s the final moment of saying goodbye. (I do wonder how we as a society will tackle this now funerals are not so accessible and well attended?) But for the closest to the deceased — it’s just the begining. We put pressure on ourselves as we remember our dead — we want to do them justice, for their precious life. A poem by Yevtushenko reads:
“No people are uninteresting. Their fate is like the chronicle of planets. […] In any man who dies there dies with him his first snow and kiss and fight. It goes with him.”
But maybe we need to be more gentle with ourselves. We may feel we can’t do enough. Can’t extole them enough. But maybe it’s just enough that we try?
There’s maybe a question of why as someone who largely doesn’t share personal stuff I feel the need to express these memories online? Rather than just remember in a private way. I’m not sure I have an answer.
I thought I could share photos of mum, talk about her hearing Martin Luther King talk aged 17 in Paris, talk of adventures and travel diaries from travelling overland to Australia or when she travelled solo by Greyhound bus across the States in the 70s. Tell of books she loved (esp. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran), thoughts she had written down over the years about Love, Capitalism, Spirituality, Politics, what she was like, what she taught me.
But this could be a thesis. The thesis of my love for my mum. And how much I miss her. It could take all my days to write.
But she wouldn’t want that. She would want me to live moving forward. Help people. Learn. Fight injustice. Create joy and fun. Enjoy nature. Enjoy art. Enjoy Life!
So here I am NOT selling my mum to you or explaining what she meant to me — whilst doing exactly that! Social media, grief and remeberance are strange and I have no answers as to how they intertwine. But here are my mind’s ramblings as I continue this journey without her.